Check out the recording of the Course Kick-off Session below, featuring presentations from the course instructors on localized Turgo turbine manufacturing for micro hydro, with insights from Nepal, and the development of the open source design package.
Last month, as part of our SEEED Accelerator we co-hosted the E-learning course, Local Manufacturing of Turgo Turbines, in partnership the University of Bristol, People, Energy and Environment Development Association (PEEDA), Nepal Yantra Shala Energy, and Turbine Testing Lab, Kathmandu University (KU/TTL), with support from Energize Nepal Project (ENEP) and WISIONS of sustainability.
Check out the recording of the Course Kick-off Session below, featuring presentations from the course instructors on localized Turgo turbine manufacturing for micro hydro, with insights from Nepal, and the development of the open source design package.
We are very pleased to announce a new E-Learning opportunity: Local Manufacturing of Turgo Turbines. The course will be held from June 22-29, 2022 as part of our SEEED Accelerator E-Learning series, in partnership with the University of Bristol (UoB), People Energy and Environment Development Association (PEEDA), Nepal Yantra Shala Energy (NYSE), Kathmandu University Turbine Testing Lab (TTL/KU), and Hydro Empowerment Network (HPNET), with support from Energize Nepal Project (ENEP) and WISIONS. Offered at no cost, the 1-week, virtual course aims to advance local manufacturers in the global South who have experience in designing and fabricating small-scale (<1 MW) hydropower turbines. Time commitment and pre-qualifications are explained below.
At the core of the course curriculum is an open source Turgo turbine design package, developed by PEEDA in collaboration with the UoB, TTL/KU and NYSE. Participants will have access to engineering drawings, a design spreadsheet and a 3D CAD file, within a practical training experience that includes opportunity for live interface with instructors. In turn, discussion and exchange will facilitate feedback to aid further refinement of the design package, particularly to enhance its application in different contexts. Thus, participants will benefit from a practical skill-building opportunity, while contributing to the upscaling of Turgo turbine deployment across the global South.
Format: E-learning, 1-week self-paced, with two live sessions (course kickoff and Q&A)
Duration: June 22 - 29, 2022
Core Topics: Turgo Turbine - Open Source Design
Pre-Qualifications: All local manufacturers based in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, who submit the Application Form by June 15, 2022, will be accepted. Those based in other regions can contact the instructor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Estimated Time Commitment: Live sessions and self-work modules
Live Sessions starting at 8pm Philippines (find your local time here):
Self-work via the SEEED E-Learning platform:
Application Form: Apply no later than June 15, 2022 at the link below.
As a medium head turbine, the Turgo offers a viable option for sites where head and flow characteristics make the choice between Pelton and Cross-flow turbines difficult. Based on hindsight from Nepal, for sites where this choice is difficult, the Turgo presents a beneficial option both in terms of performance and cost. Other benefits include that the Turgo deals well with silt and that it operates at a higher speed than the Pelton which enables direct drive transmission at much lower heads. Thus, the Turgo may require fewer parts, improving its reliability.
The engineering drawings that will be provided in the course are for a direct drive Turgo turbine design that can be used for heads between approximately 45and 90m and flow rates from 100 to 150 L/s. Currently, the design has used a direct drive transmission, however, the design could be adapted for use with a belt drive transmission. In the near future, the design team plans to develop Turgo design packages for various heads and flow rates.
This E-Learning opportunity has stemmed from a 2-year project of PEEDA, UoB, KU and NYSE: Upscaling Locally Manufactured Turgo Turbine: Dissemination and Demonstration. Focused on the Nepal context, the primary aim of the project is to improve the technology readiness level of the Turgo turbine through capacity building, knowledge transfer and the development of an open source repository for Turgo turbine system design. Following multiple stages of design improvement using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), an improved blade design was then 3D-printed in Kathmandu, providing a mold for casting. All other components were also designed such that all components could be manufactured in Nepal.
The turbine has now been built and installed at a pilot site in the Taplejung District of Eastern Nepal. The system is rated at 32 kW and is now running and awaiting testing by the KU Turbine Testing Lab. Site-based testing equipment has been procured, including an ultrasonic flow meter and digital pressure transducer, which will be used for testing efficiency.
Through this project, an in-person workshop was also held in Kathmandu in April 2022 to introduce the Turgo to other manufacturing companies in Nepal and begin to elicit feedback on the design and resources that had been developed. Feedback was largely positive with some useful suggestions for improving ease of use, which will be integrated into the materials provided in the SEEED E-Learning course. The upcoming course will provide further opportunity to extend and improve upon the design and resources provided, based on feedback from practitioners based in different contexts.
Currently, the open source design package is for a direct drive Turgo turbine designed for heads between approximately 45 and 90m and flow rates from 100 to 150 L/s. A longer-term objective is to develop design packages for various runner sizes with corresponding blade designs, such that a manufacturer could utilize the open source tools for any head and flow rate where Turgo is possible. That is, they would be directed to the appropriate blade size and pitch-to-center diameter (PCD) with corresponding engineering drawings for other components. Another longer-term aim is to develop a knowledge transfer process and approach that can potentially be replicated for different turbine types, across different country contexts. The upcoming course will be an important step in the development and improvement of said process.
To learn more about the Turgo turbine and the project that led to the open source design package, check out the project description and this blog post by course instructor, Dr. Joe Butchers, Teaching Associate in Engineering Design at the University of Bristol. For further background on HPNET’s SEEED Accelerator and previous E-Learning courses, see here.
Sustainable water and energy solutions go hand and hand, as key cross-cutting factors that intersect with multiple Sustainable Development Goals. From June 13-15, 2022, the Global Symposium on Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions will be held in Brazil and Paraguay, convened by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, hosted by ITAIPI Binancional, in partnership with Sustainable Water & Energy Solutions Network. The main objective of the symposium is “to enhance the capacities of relevant stakeholders including governmental institutions to effectively manage the water-energy nexus and interlinkages with other SDGs covering the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development”.
Three HPNET members will be presenting at the symposium: Satish Gautam, Thematic Advisor of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) in Nepal; Sherzad Ali Khan, Regional Coordinator of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Pakistan; and Jade Angngalao, Energy Access Specialist for HPNET’s work in the Philippines. Satish Gautam will present in Session 2: Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions & Energy Case Studies. Sherzad Ali Khan and Jade Angngalao will both present in Session 7: Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions - Economic Interlinkages.
More information about this event is available at the website of the Global Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions Network at this link.
The event will be offered in a hybrid format. To join virtually, register in advance at this link.
February 2022 marked the launch of our SEEED E-Learning series, made possible with support from Skat Foundation, DGRV, GIZ, and WISIONS. Hosted on our new SEEED E-Learning platform, the series was launched as part of our SEEED Accelerator, an initiative to unlock the full potential of hydro mini-grid practitioners and communities in the Asia Pacific, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED) is HPNET’s approach for community-scale hydro implementation, based on the core elements needed to optimize hydro mini-grid sustainability, local socio-economic benefits, and climate resilience. The core elements of SEEED are shown below.
The SEEED Accelerator focuses on knowledge exchange and advocacy to generate impact, facilitating local practitioners to transition to sustainable hydro mini-grids rooted in the SEEED approach. The SEEED E-Learning series offers courses focused on the core elements of SEEED, shown above. The first three courses hosted thus far were:
Course 1: Fundamentals of Community-Scale Hydro Mini-Grids
The first course was hosted over 6 weeks during February and March, 2022, and focused on technical and local enterprise aspects of community hydro systems. The course began with a live Kick-off Session overviewing HPNET’s SEEED Initiative and introducing the course instructors, modules and e-learning platform. The curriculum provided participants with a solid introduction – and, for some, some a useful refresher – on the fundamental elements of sustainable community-scale hydropower implementation.
Course modules included:
In addition to independent learning, weekly live sessions provided opportunity for peer-to-peer dialogue and engagement with instructors. Participants joined from a range of backgrounds and the organizing team in turn learned a lot from participants who shared their experiences during the live sessions. In total, 211 people registered representing 43 countries and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We are very pleased by the turnout and response for our first course of the E-Learning series!
Course 2: Climate Resilient Solutions to Hydro Mini-Grids
Sustainable watersheds are the foundational element of SEEED because hydro mini-grid sustainability relies on healthy forested watersheds; in turn, hydro mini-grids incentivize watershed restoration and stewardship. In the context of the global climate crisis, ecosystem health is all the more important for ensuring climate resilient hydro mini-grids and communities.
With this in mind, the second SEEED E-course focused on solutions for enabling climate resilient hydro mini-grids. The course oriented participants to the important role of traditional ecological knowledge and environmental governance systems of Indigenous and local communities. It then introduced the key phases of watershed management for hydro mini-grids and practical examples of watershed treatment, such as reforestation, agriculture-related solutions, and built structures for managing flooding and erosion.
The course modules included:
To kick off the course, we were privileged to have Hon. Adrian Banie Lasimbang join us as a speaker, who is an Advisor for TONIBUNG and JOAS and serves on the boards of the Right Energy Partnership (REP) and HPNET. Watch the recording for insights on the role of Indigenous communities in the water-energy-food-forests-livelihoods nexus.
Course 3: Agroecological Benefits to Hydro Mini-Grids
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agroecology is “a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems.” Agroecology presents an integrative approach that generates multiple benefits for people and nature. The latest course of the series introduces the integration of community-scale hydropower with agroecology for mutual benefits. Alongside refresher modules from Course 1 and 2, the key module is “Impact of Community Hydro on Agroecology”, which covers:
In conjunction with Courses 2 and 3, a field-based workshop was conducted in Sitio Gawaan Proper, Kalinga Province, Philippines, to build the capacity of local practitioners and community members to develop climate resilient hydro mini-grids and leverage benefits at the nexus of water, energy, food, forests and livelihoods. Read more here.
Upcoming SEEED E-Learning Courses
Registration is now open for the next SEEED E-Learning course, Local Manufacturing of Turgo Turbines. The course will take place over 5 days in late June, 2022, and is designed for experienced manufacturers of hydro mini-grids. Click here to learn more.
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We are thrilled to announce the launch of our SEEED E-Learning platform! The all-new platform is designed to facilitate online learning and capacity building on key topics for hydro mini-grid sustainability and social-ecological impact. The E-Learning platform provides an interactive, user-friendly interface that hosts our SEEED E-Learning series, which we launched earlier this year with support from Skat Foundation, DGRV, GIZ, and WISIONS.
The SEEED Approach
Our E-Learning initiative is embedded in the SEEED Accelerator. Collating 40-years of experiential hindsight in the Asia Pacific, HPNET established the Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED) approach for community-scale hydro implementation. Ultimately, SEEED aims to facilitate sustainable hydro mini-grids that support community empowerment beyond electricity generation.
The SEEED approach integrates key factors for optimizing hydro mini-grid sustainability, local socio-economic benefits, and climate resilience. The core elements of SEEED are shown below. The foundational elements of sustainable watersheds and technical reliability focus on functionality. Once they are established and the system is functioning consistently, productive end use and inclusive enterprise aspects can be achieved, bringing value-add to local livelihoods.
The approach is embedded into an accelerator program aimed to unlock the full potential of hydro mini-grid practitioners and communities. The Accelerator incorporates knowledge exchange and strategic advocacy to advance context-responsive solutions in line with proven approaches. The SEEED Accelerator utilizes a 4-step strategy to generate impact from knowledge exchange and advocacy activities, as shown below.
SEEED E-Learning Series
The SEEED E-Learning platform is designed to support practitioners to learn about the core elements of SEEED, through self-paced, interactive learning. So far, the platform has hosted three E-courses:
The independent learning portion of each course consisted of a series of modules designed around video-based learning, supplementary reading and self-assessment quizzes. Participants also engaged in live sessions to connect with experts and peers on the topics addressed in the modules. To read more about the above courses, click here.
We look forward to hosting more E-Learning opportunities soon, including the 5-day course, Local Manufacturing of Turgo Turbines, in June, 2022.
To stay up to date on SEEED E-Learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.
Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihoods (RERL) is a joint project of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) of the Government of Nepal and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Last quarter, RERL made headway on multiple small-scale hydro projects, including the testing and commissioning of the Phawa Khola Mini Hydropower Project, and a mason training to develop local capacity.
Phawa Khola Mini Hydropower Project
In April 2022, RERL conducted power output testing for the 500 kW Phawa Khola MHP, located in Sirijangha Rural Municipality of Taplejung district, Nepal. This project will provide electricity access to unelectrified households in the vicinity and the surplus energy shall be exported to the national grid through net metering provision. RERL expert and HPNET member Jiwan Kumar Mallik shares more about the Phawa Khola Mini Hydro commissioning here.
The project was developed under the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) project of the Asia Development Bank (ADB), funded with subsidy, community equity and a loan from Machhapuchre Bank (MBL). Upon completion of the SASEC project, a total of four mini hydro systems with a total capacity of 1.1 MW will be in operation.
To support local capacity development in the catchment area of the Saniveri Mini Hydro project, RERL organized a 15-day Mason Training in Saniveri Puttha Uttar Ganga, East Rukum, Nepal. The training also included 2 days of ‘On the Job’ vocational training facilitated by Baraha Institute of Engineering and Technology. 10 men and 5 women participated in the training and are expected to be engaged in construction of the MHP.
Indigenous peoples have a wealth of knowledge and long-proven environmental governance systems that support healthy watershed ecosystems. In turn, Indigenous-led watershed conservation can contribute toward biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and climate resilient hydro mini-grids.
HPNET Board Member, Hon. Adrian Banie Lasimbang, recently brought this important message to the 2nd Asia Parks Congress, which was held at the Sabah International Convention Centre from May 24-29, 2022. Hon. Lasimbang is an Advisor for TONIBUNG and JOAS and a Board Member for the Right Energy Partnership (REP). At the congress, Adrian presented a paper on the ways in which Indigenous-led watershed conservation contributes to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, highlighting the role of the Tagal system in watershed management, through a case study in Ulu Papar, Sabah. Tagal refers to the watershed stewardship system/protocols of the Orang Asal Indigenous communities of Sabah.
The small-scale hydro sector for energy access in Nepal has achieved immense success over the last fifty years, with over 3000 communities electrified using mostly localized technology. Amidst new challenges and opportunities, policy, technology, and institutional solutions continue to emerge from Nepal’s long committed and experienced ecosystem of stakeholders.
Such a vibrant, living localized sector in Nepal has been made possible thanks to the pioneers who sacrificed professionally and personally to advance the sector as a whole. One such early pioneer of micro and mini hydro development in Nepal is the late Mr. Shyam Raj Pradhan, the founder of Nepal Yantra Shala Energy (NYSE), now the leading small-scale hydro manufacturer and service provider in Nepal and in South Asia, serving the sector globally.
To honor Mr. Pradhan’s legacy, NYSE has released a biography in the format of both a book and a video-biography capturing his inspiring journey to becoming a gifted engineer and leading social entrepreneur. Among the highlights presented in the video-biography, using historic visuals from the years of 1937 until 2014, include:
Mr. Bikram Pradhan and Dr. Suman Raj Pradhan, sons of Mr. Shyam Raj Pradhan, held a launch ceremony for the biography in May 2022. The event was attended by various experts of Nepal’s small-scale hydro sector, including:
Images and a video of the launch ceremony can be found here. The event was also mentioned in this news article (in Nepali language). The video-biography is accessible here:
From May 17-19, 2022, several HPNET members and partners attended and presented at the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. The forum brought together stakeholders from around the world to take stock of progress, address challenges and spur investment towards the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) to end energy poverty and advance a just energy transition globally.
We provide a brief snapshot of HPNET’s member and partner presence below.
HPNET Member, thirty-five year old Aman Dobriyaal, based in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, taught himself how to manufacture pico hydro Crossflow turbines over a decade ago. Since then Aman has built and helped to install over 700 units for households and communities in remote corners of India, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
His local enterprise Dobriyal Brothers recently established a turbine manufacturing center, soon to include a pico hydro testing facility. Aman seeks to advance their work and contribute experiences by engaging with HPNET’s SEEED Accelerator.
Among the units he supplied this quarter is a 3kW system to electrify an Indigenous community near Rayagada, Chitragrah, supported by the local government. Aman visited the site for a feasibility assessment and then guided the team remotely to install and test the system.
He received this video of jubilee, which exemplifies the Indigenous pride that comes with localized approaches to community-scale hydro.
Check out the video!
For more information contact Aman Dobriyaal at email@example.com and at +91 95570 79907 by phone or WhatsApp.
Malawi-based small-scale hydro entrepreneur, Hastings Mkandawire, recently received an inaugural, prestigious award from the Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA), called Ngwazi ya Lusu mu Malawi, translated as "The Most Skillful Person in Malawi". A self-taught engineer, Hastings began manufacturing pico and micro hydro turbines from recycled materials to generate electricity in his village and neighboring communities.
His first decade in the sector focused on pico hydro projects, developing over 100 units. During this period he trained over 50 youth and facilitated the formation of a youth group, which went onto installing over 300 units. Because rural Malawi is less than 5% electrified, the pico hydro units have brought immense benefits to the communities.
Nearing the start of his second decade in the sector, in 2014 Hastings was selected to take part in the Mandela Washington for Young African Leaders (YALI) fellowship program, after which point he established the turbine manufacturing social enterprise, Muzuzu Institute of Technology and Innovation (MZITI) in 2015. MZITI has enabled Hastings to spend the last decade focusing on upgrading his pico hydro fabrication skills to micro hydro manufacturing. The MZITI facility has various metal fabrication equipment, including lathes, welding machines, cutters, etc. At MZITI Hastings can now manufacture Crossflow and Pelton turbines for micro hydro capacities. In addition, Hastings supports pico and micro hydro communities in establishing productive end uses, including manufacturing grain mills at MZITI.
With recent support from the Segal Family Foundation, MZITI now has a computer aided design (CAD) center, allowing Hastings to advance his manufacturing. HPNET is collaborating with Hastings to find ways to develop higher efficiency micro hydro systems at MZITI, and to scale up its implementation to accelerate rural electrification in Malawi.
At the YALI Summit, then US President Barack Obama acknowledged Hastings’ work, saying: “In rural Malawi, he saw towns in darkness, without electricity. So now he gathers scrap metal, builds generators on his porch, takes them down to the stream for power, delivers electricity so farmers can irrigate their crops and children can study at night”.
Learn more about Hastings’ work in the links below -- keeping in mind that some of the videos are outdated and do not reflect Hastings current phase of development. :) HPNET will soon feature Hastings in a StreamSide Chats edition -- stay tuned!
In this edition of Hidden No More, we are thrilled to feature Urmila Senapati, a community hydro pioneer in her own right who led community development initiatives in Odisha, India for over three decades. Under Urmila’s leadership, community energy access projects were first initiated at Gram Vikas, where she worked from 1986 to 2019, tirelessly advocating for community-led transformation. Read on for a glimpse into Urmila’s inspiring journey, as she reflects on her trials and triumphs over the years.
You can check out more Hidden No More interviews here. The series spotlights women small-scale hydro practitioners, to honour trailblazers who have made a difference in the sector and to inspire the current and next generation of women practitioners.
To start with, Urmilaji, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I started with Gram Vikas in 1986, when I was 26 years old. I worked there for 33 years, until retiring in 2019. I currently live in my native village called Raghunathour, in Jagatsingpur District in Odisha State, India. While I was working for Gram Vikas, I never thought that I would retire when I reached a certain age; I always thought that I would retire when I felt tired, but there is an enforced age for retirement that I had to follow. After retirement, many of my well-wishers invited me to continue my journey working in the sector, but unfortunately my mother’s health condition, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, prevented me from continuing. That said, I still try to help my colleagues with work matters over the phone sometimes.
When I was working, I hardly had any time to spend with my parents. Now it is a blessing that at least I have the chance to look after my mother in her old age. In addition, I’ve recently developed some of our unused land into a small vegetable garden. I’m applying some of what we taught communities about agriculture and land management and am getting great satisfaction from my garden. Giving advice to others is a completely different experience than doing it oneself!
How did you start your career and what inspired you to start working in community development?
I was born and raised in Kharagpur, West Bengal up to grade 7, as my father worked for the railway department. When my grandfather passed away, my siblings and I (two boys and four girls) moved to our family’s village with my mother. We went to live with our paternal uncle, but it didn’t work out. My uncles were very powerful men in the village. They didn’t allow us to live with them nor did they give us our share of our paternal property. They harassed us and prevented me from going to school. I was 11 years old at the time. They purposefully disconnected our electricity and didn’t even allow us to buy kerosene from the shop to use for lanterns. Those incidents sparked a rebellious spirit in me. I realized how rich and powerful people treat the poor.
Under such conditions I completed my studies, and at the age of 19, I started my career as a government school teacher, but I did not continue for long. One of my cousin’s brothers, Badal, was working in the charitable sector and asked me if you I would be interested to work in the sector. The day I got the chance to work in the nonprofit sector, I immediately joined Gram Vikas as a Field Organiser in a remote tribal village under Kerandimal project, Ganjam District. During those days a typical work day included 16-17 hours of walking, often from 6:00am to 11:00pm, to engage with community members. Most of my friends criticized me, saying that I was crazy to leave my government job for this type of work, but I did not care. After that I never looked back. I grasped the opportunity to work independently and uplift the voices of poor communities to a higher level, to fight against injustice and inequality. This is the way I started my career in the nonprofit sector. Over time I held different positions with increasing responsibility, up to Senior Manager, and did my best to produce positive results in each role.
“I grasped the opportunity to work independently and uplift the voices of poor communities to a higher level, to fight against injustice and inequality."
We understand that it was under your leadership that renewable energy initiatives were first initiated at Gram Vikas. What inspired you to start promoting micro hydropower?
I realized early on that water is a precious resource. In southern and western Odisha, most tribal communities are less developed than those in other parts of Odisha. They lack basic services and access to clean water, electricity, communications, food security, healthcare, etc. Most tribal people die from common diseases like diarrhoea, TB, fever and jaundice, most often impacted by waterborne diseases. Water is important for many reasons. Can you imagine that, to get a bucket of water, a woman must walk 1 to 2 kms in a mountainous area? Cooking and eating must be finished before nightfall, otherwise families must eat by the light of a fire (“chula” light). Some communities have abundant natural resources but cannot benefit from them; all the water goes downstream and is used for large hydroelectric dams and irrigation channels to improve agriculture production for affluent people. The government always thinks that, unlike the rich, poor people need only poor solutions.
In this context, we noticed that some villages had very good untapped water sources up in the mountains. It occurred to me that we could use this water to improve livelihoods through electricity access, but at first, I did not know how. I discussed this with my Director who consulted a few technical experts. One person named Jogesh, from Utarakhanda, visited one of our sites and said the site could produce 15 to 25 KW of electricity. Using their feasibility report we decided to construct a micro hydro project. Fortunately, at that time we had an Australian volunteer named Michael who had been working with Gram Vikas for two years, under the leadership of then-Program Manager, Liby Johnson [now Executive Director of Gram Vikas]. Michael provided technical support to initiate the first micro hydro project in a tribal village called Amthaguda in Kalahandi District. When Michael left, Dipti Vaghela [now Network Facilitator and Manager at HPNET] joined Gram Vikas, providing technical support to continue the project and she helped to bring it to completion. We were able to work within a very restrictive budget, since the community contributed in-kind labour and provided local materials free of cost, and we developed a system for monthly tariff collection. We also supported one youth from the village to receive training on system operation and maintenance. This project not only generated electricity, but also helped the community to increase their food production through land irrigation, provided 100% of households with 24/7 access to safe water for toilets, and improved health by mitigating water borne diseases.
The day electricity came to the village, people celebrated by cooking a bhoji for a jatra (as if there was a festival for the whole community). What the government had not accomplished over 60 years, the community accomplished in two years, with perseverance to overcome various challenges. Upon seeing the success of micro hydro in Amthaguda village, other nearby villages stepped forward to develop community hydro as well. To date, five hydro mini-grids are running in Kalahandi District.
What kind of challenges have you encountered in your career journey? Have you faced particular challenges as a woman practitioner?
Yes, I have encountered many challenges in both my personal life and working life. Firstly, as a woman, it is often not easy to be accepted as a leader; often you are only accepted when there is no alternative and only once you have proven yourself. I first faced this challenge and demonstrated my leadership capacity in Thuamul Rampur project in Kalahandi District.
Thuamul Rampur project was, and remains, one of the key tribal community sites for Gram Vikas. It was situated in a forest reserve area with no communication services and only one pucca (“paved”) road from Bhawanipatna district headquarters to Thuamulpur block headquarters, thus I had to walk part of the journey. Due to its extreme remoteness and underdevelopment, in a hilly area with dense forest, those living in the area faced many challenges including malaria, lack of electricity, no running water, and dangerous wildlife encounters. Moreover, the site was 450 kms from Gram Vikas headquarters. The project was initiated in 1988. From ‘88 to ’94, 6 Team Leaders were posted within 6 years. Most of them were not interested to stay in such poor conditions for extended periods. Not only Team Leaders, but also staff turnover was very high. Those who visited the site and didn’t quit immediately often came down with malaria after a few weeks (although this problem has since reduced). As such, amongst Gram Vikas staff, this project was considered the most difficult. Often, staff would resign before transferring to Thuamul Rampur having heard of its challenging conditions; and those who were successful in Thuamul Rampur earned great respect. The area was rich in natural resources like water sources, forests and minerals, and both a challenging yet inspiring context for outsiders.
In 1995, I was posted as a Team Leader in Thuamul Rampur. I was shocked to find that 95% of my staff were much more senior than myself and there was only one woman out of 45. “Who will take me seriously,” I thought. The staff advised that, being a woman, I should not go to the field and, rather, remain working from the project office. All the community work would be done by them, and I was only to process bills and pay vouchers. I was confused and afraid -- how could I lead the project without doing field work and engaging with communities? I informed them that my primary job required field visits and I acted accordingly. During field visits I noticed some problems including improper reporting of finances and staff work hours, and lack of discipline among staff when in the villages. I tried my best to correct these issues, but it was not an easy task for me. The staff disliked the changes I was trying to instill and created obstacles for me. The situation worsened to the point that my supervisor became my adversary; but thankfully the Gram Vikas Director was able to understand my intentions and was supportive.
How did you overcome these obstacles? What helped you to persevere?
During that challenging time in Thuamul Rampur I discussed the situation with our Director and thankfully he provided moral and strategic support, even directly in the field. As a result, I was able to continue and became the only Team Leader who successfully completed 5 years as a Team Leader in Thuamul Rampur. I’m happy to see that the programs initiated during my leadership continue to be sustained by communities, including: establishing the Residential tribal school named Gramvikas Shikhsyaniketan in August, 1998; the Livelihood, Water & Sanitation Programme which has benefitted 100% of the households in the village; solar PV systems and biodiesel projects (biodiesel produced from un-utilized local seeds, in collaboration with a Canadian NGO named CTx Green); water pumping from dug wells to supply bathrooms in tribal villages; and, of course, the micro hydro initiatives.
More broadly, I benefited from maximizing the time I spent with community members, getting to know the reality on the ground, and I learned many new things from them. I always tried to be a friend to community members, not a boss. Acceptance by community members is one of the most important factors for getting work done. Sharing knowledge and, in turn, learning from local knowledge is one of the most important tools. Local peoples’ practical knowledge is more useful than any outsider’s knowledge. For this reason, I succeeded by empowering local people to become leaders who would be the real drivers of successful development programs.
“I succeeded by empowering local people to become leaders who would be the real drivers of successful development programs.”
Would you have recommendations for organizations to better support women team members?
First and foremost, a Team Leader or Executive Director must have confidence in women team members that they can do good work. An attitudinal change is required.
I overcame obstacles many thanks to my Assistant Director, Mrs. Anthiya Madiath, who motivated me in so many ways and helped me to build my capacity through training, exposure visits, critical meetings, and mentorship. Thanks to her support I decided to commit myself to the empowerment of tribal and marginalized communities work until the end of my life. Training, exposure, and inclusion in decision-making are some key ways that organizations can build the capacity of women practitioners.
From your experience, how does gender relate to water management and community hydro? And how can we encourage women’s full participation and leadership in these areas?
Women and water are inseparable. We cannot think of gender equity and water management separately. In the context where I have lived and worked, it is women’s primary responsibility to get water for the household and it is women who do all work related to water, from agriculture to household labour. If water is mis-utilized the first people who will suffer badly are women. As a result, we’ve found that women are highly motivated to participate in water management initiatives.
“Women and water are inseparable. We cannot think of gender equity and water management separately.”
For example, we conducted a series of village meetings to motivate the community to participate in decision making and contribute labour for the community hydro project. All community members agreed to the meeting but the next day we didn’t see any men at the worksite. Only women community members were present and did the work. When we asked about men, the women said they went to the bazaar or were playing cards in the village. “They won’t work but we cannot sit idly because we are struggling to get water,” they would say. “It is our responsibility to fetch water for the home.” In the end, we noticed only a few men participated. A similar situation repeated with the collection of funds for micro hydro maintenance. So, to answer your question, I have not faced any difficulty motivating women to participate and take the lead; in my experience, this happened naturally.
When you look back at your career, what are you most proud of?
At the end of my 33-year career with Gram Vikas, when at times I feel that friends and acquaintances may have forgotten my contributions to the organization, I feel touched that the communities I engaged with haven’t forgotten me. Whenever I feel down, very often my spirit is lifted when I receive a phone call from a community member saying, “Didi [meaning elder sister in Oriya], please come to visit our village”.
I feel proud of the many development initiatives that I initiated, which improved the livelihoods of tribal communities. I am lucky that I had the opportunity to work with tribal communities in the remote interior through Gram Vikas, in inaccessible areas where development was once just a dream. Initially, I thought it was impossible to work in such remote areas where you could not manage adequate food and mobility, but thanks to support from colleagues, training, exposure, etc., I could succeed. Overall, I am very thankful to Gram Vikas for a highly rewarding career.
One of my proudest accomplishments came out of one of the most difficult struggles in my career. In 1992, I was posted as Team Leader in Rudhapader project, in Ganjam district. During my field visit I noticed that villagers were cultivating a small patch of brinjal in infertile land within the forest reserve; for this, every year, the forest guard and rangers took bribes from them. I motivated the community to shift to cashew plantations instead of brinjal, which would result in a better return. They agreed and implemented this successfully with financial support from Gram Vikas. The next year, the forest rangers asked for bribes, but I encouraged the community not to pay any bribe to anyone. When they didn’t pay, the rangers became angry. They illegally arrested people and kept them in the Tarasing Rang police station. When it came to my notice I rushed to the station and confronted them. In the end, they released the community members, but 10 forest and criminal cases were filed in my name in 1992. I had to regularly attend court from then until 2004. That 12-year experience is one I will never forget, but at the end of my painful struggle I saw a remarkable outcome.
In total 20 families were living in the village. From 1995/1996 onwards, each family was earning a minimum of 20,000 to 50,000 RP cash in a year from cashew sales (depending on land size). Today, after a long fight, every family in the village has a land record in their name under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA). Now the village scenario has completely transformed. Recently a family showed me their new marble house through a video call. Often, they call and invite me to visit their village. I feel very proud of what was accomplished in this village.
Would you like to share any final thoughts for our readers?
Nothing is impossible. Everything is possible with hard work, willingness and honesty. Your struggle today will give you happiness tomorrow that will last the rest of your life.
Finally, I’ll share a quote that I feel is 100% correct when looking back at my experiences: “Love your job but don’t love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you” -- Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India. It reminds me that, as a woman leader, being committed to the upliftment of marginalized communities may mean displeasing some people in the process – but the end result, achieving my mission, is worth being steadfast.
We recently launched the SEEED Accelerator to unlock the full potential of hydro mini-grid practitioners and communities. The knowledge exchange aspect of the Accelerator incorporates E-Learning and impact-driven, customized capacity building to facilitate hydro mini-grid sustainability and optimal socio-economic benefits. To this end, we launched the SEEED E-Learning series with support from Skat Foundation, DGRV, GIZ, and WISIONS. So far we’ve hosted three virtual courses (with more to come) focused on community hydro fundamentals, climate resilient solutions, and agroecological benefits. In conjunction with the virtual E-Learning courses, iwe recently supported local experts to conduct a field-based workshop in Sitio Gawaan Proper, Kalinga Province, Philippines.
The workshop was designed to build the capacity of micro hydro communities to strengthen the long-term viability of their systems, while building resilience to the impacts of climate change and leveraging benefits at the nexus of water, energy, food, forests and livelihoods.
Across the Philippines, communities are increasingly affected by stronger and more frequent typhoons and volatile weather due to climate change. Micro hydro communities in Kalinga Province and elsewhere have seen their mini-grid infrastructure damaged by destructive storms and the reliability of their electricity source threatened by fluctuating stream flow. The people of Kalinga Province are very keen to build climate resilient energy access through nature-based solutions, building upon long-proven Indigenous knowledge and governance systems. As one participant noted, “our watersheds are truly connected to the life of the community hydro system, as we have seen and experienced before”.
The workshops addressed the need for ecosystem restoration and strategies for building for climate resilience, while also building capacity to ensure long-term financial viability and agroecological benefits. The approach of the workshop and connected E-Learning courses emphasized the need to develop integrative solutions addressing the water-energy-food-forests-livelihoods nexus.
Next steps include working with community leaders and appropriate local and regional experts to facilitate steps towards resolving challenges expressed by workshop participants, including:
More broadly, the successful workshop in Kalinga has led us to reflect on possibilities for future HPNET workshops. While E-Learning has enabled us to reach practitioners in over 40 countries this year, overcoming pandemic-related challenges, we were thrilled to also resume support for field-based capacity building with the workshop in Kalinga Province. We see much potential for further hybrid formats going forward.
To learn more about community hydro in Kalinga, check out StreamSide Chats Edition 4, in which we take a virtual tour of the Balbalasang micro hydro project and discuss the Indigenous governance systems that support its success.
You can also check out the SEEED E-Learning platform to explore course offerings and read more about the SEEED Approach.
The Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya has launched a pico hydro program, which includes demonstration sites in 11 districtures and the electrification of 300+ communities.
The Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development (NEPeD), an HPNET member based in the state of Nagaland, also in northeast India, has thus far provided 51 NEPeD pico hydro hydrogers for the initiative. NEPeD is also providing operation and maintenance capacity building for 102 village-based persons (2 persons from each village). Each unit will generate up to 3 kW for lighting and small appliances.
Since being established in 2007, NEPeD has been designing and manufacturing pico and micro hydro hydrogers in Dimapur, Nagaland, along with providing all onsite services, including installation, training, and productive end use integration. You can read more about NEPeD’s approach in our member profile here.
How can watershed stewardship enable climate resilient hydro mini-grids? How can traditional ecological knowledge be leveraged for sustainable energy access?
Building onto our Earth Voices series, which featured case studies of Indigenous communities who have developed resilient hydro mini-grids through watershed stewardship, we now go further to understand how rural energy systems can benefit from Indigenous values and methods for climate resilience. We aim to do this by facilitating dialogue with Indigenous leaders and organizations seeking to integrate traditional knowledge and values into energy access solutions.
As a start, in the kick-off of our recent SEEED E-Learning course, “Climate Resilient Solutions to Hydro Mini-Grids”, we were privileged to be joined by Hon. Adrian Banie Lasimbang, Advisor for TONIBUNG and JOAS and Board Member for the Right Energy Partnership (REP) and HPNET. Watch the recording for a deep dive discussion on climate resilience, the water-energy-food-forests-livelihoods nexus, and Indigenous rights, traditional knowledge and stewardship protocols.
The course was the second in our E-Learning series, offered as part of the SEEED Accelerator, with support from Skat Foundation, DGRV, GIZ, and WISIONS.
Beyond electricity access, community-scale hydro can have far-reaching socio-economic and ecological benefits. When managed with sustainability in mind, hydro mini-grids can support climate resilient watersheds, sustainable food production and thriving rural economies. To support practitioners and communities to unlock these possibilities, we are offering two new E-learning courses:
Offered at no cost, each course consists of a live kick-off session followed by independent learning on our SEEED E-learning platform with a live Q&A session and peer-to-peer dialogue. Build your knowledge through interactive content, real-world examples and expert insight. The courses are aimed at community hydro practitioners who wish to leverage climate resilient solutions and agroecological benefits; however the content is also beneficial for those not well acquainted with hydro mini-grids, who wish to learn more about nature-based solutions for development. A technical background is not required.
Register your interest for one or both courses no later than March 18, 2022 at the link below.
Climate Resilient Solutions to Hydro Mini-Grids
From March 21-25, 2022, we are pleased to offer a 5-day course on climate resilient solutions to hydro mini-grids. Sign up to learn how watershed management can build resilience to climate change and sustainable energy access in rural communities.
Key topics include:
Estimated time commitment:
Agroecological Benefits of Hydro Mini-Grids
The next course will take place from March 29-31, 2022 and will focus on agroecological benefits of hydro mini-grids. Learn how community hydro electricity and watersheds can support sustainable food production and exchange ideas in an interactive 4-day course.
Key topics include the following, as they relate to hydro mini-grids:
Estimated time commitment:
SEEED E-Learning Series
The current course offerings are part of an E-learning series that we launched earlier this year, with support from Skat Foundation, DGRV, GIZ, and WISIONS. Hosted on our all-new SEEED E-learning platform, the first course took place over 6 weeks, focusing on the fundamentals of community-scale (<1 MW) hydro mini-grids.
The SEEED E-learning series is part of our Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED) Accelerator, an initiative to unlock the full potential of hydro mini-grid practitioners and communities in the Asia Pacific, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. The SEEED Accelerator utilizes a 4-step strategy to generate impact from knowledge exchange and advocacy activities, as shown below.
The SEEED approach focuses on hydro mini-grid sustainability to enable climate resilience and community empowerment beyond kilowatts. Alongside reliable technology, sustainable watersheds are a foundational element of SEEED – because without healthy forested watersheds, reliable electricity generation is not possible, nor is sustainable community empowerment.
Sign up for our upcoming E-learning courses to learn more about the full social-environmental potential of hydro mini-grids and best practices for getting there!
Indonesia's inspiring, 25-year micro/mini hydro sector has been challenged with policies that have stalled local manufacturers and developers from providing electricity both to the central and to last mile communities.
Local practitioners, including members of the association Asosiasi Hidro Bandung (AHB), came together to strategize how best to convince the government to alleviate policy, finance, and planning bottlenecks. Established in 1998 and now having 180 members, AHB has been at the forefront of linking entrepreneurs, communities, and the government to continue scaling up small-scale hydropower in Indonesia.
The meeting was held in late February at the prestigious Hydropower Competence Centre (HYCOM) in Bandung, Indonesia, established in 2011 by Pt Entec Indonesia and the Indonesia TECD, with support from the Swiss Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Promotion in International Cooperation (REPIC), ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE), and GIZ.
We are off to a great start with our virtual training, Fundamentals of Community-Scale Hydro Mini-Grids!
We began with a live Kick-off Session overviewing HPNET’s SEEED Initiative and introducing the course instructors, modules and e-learning platform. The Kick-off Session also featured insightful reflections on community hydro from our partners at Skat Foundation, WISIONS of Sustainability, the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
We’d like to extend a warm 'thank you’ to our partners, course instructors and participants for helping us kick-off the training on a high note.
You can watch the Kick-off Session recording below!
Have you wondered what hydro mini-grids are, and how they differ from other renewables?
Have you come across a stream and asked how much electricity it could produce?
Do you know the range of ways mini-grid communities can co-create social enterprises?
Are you familiar with community hydro and would like a refresher on the fundamentals?
If so, consider taking advantage of an upcoming virtual training opportunity on the fundamentals of community-scale (<1 MW) hydro implementation!
The online portal will feature videos, articles, quizzes, discussion forums, and other engagement opportunities, ultimately leaving you well-versed on key implementation topics.
What is the SEEED Accelerator?
Building on 40-years of experiential hindsight on hydro mini-grid sustainability and impact, HPNET developed an initiative called Social Enterprise for Energy, Ecological and Economic Development (SEEED). Earlier this year, we launched the SEEED Accelerator to support practitioners and communities to customize proven sustainability mechanisms to local contexts, enabling climate resilience and socio-economic co-benefits through community-scale hydro.
The first cohort of the SEEED Accelerator kicked off in August through a partnership with International Rivers. We are excited to continue advancing the SEEED Accelerator in 2022 with support from Skat Foundation, beginning with the Fundamentals of Community Hydro training.
What topics will the training cover?
The Fundamentals of Community-Scale Hydro Mini-Grids training will provide participants with a solid introduction, which can also be useful as a refresher course, on the foundational elements of sustainable community-scale hydropower implementation. While technical in focus, the training emphasizes climate resilience and other socio-environmental co-benefits. An engineering or science background can be beneficial but not required. The modules are as follows:
What time commitment is required?
The training is flexible in design to accommodate your busy schedule. Participants are encouraged to attend a live kick-off session on February 7, as well as weekly live sessions for Q&A and discussion for each module of the 6-week program. In between the live sessions participants will be expected to do self-paced learning using the SEEED learning management system. Although optional, the live synchronous sessions will provide a valuable opportunity to connect with experts and peers. They will be planned for morning Sub-Saharan Africa and afternoon/evening Asia Pacific time zones.
The time commitment for each of the 6 training modules is estimated as follows:
Registration is now open! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER no later than February 1, 2021. All interested individuals are welcome to apply to join the training.
Other opportunities to look out for
Stay tuned for additional training opportunities coming up in 2022! We will soon announce registration for two subsequent trainings, taking place in March:
Climate Resilient Solutions to Hydro Mini-Grids: March 21 - 25
We are excited to conduct a 4-day training on leveraging watershed management and Indigenous governance values and ecological knowledge to enable climate resilience of community hydro systems.
Agroecological Benefits of Hydro Mini-grids: March 28 - 31
How can community hydro electricity and watersheds support sustainable food production? Learn how and exchange ideas in this 5-day training on agroecological benefits of hydro mini-grids.
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Public, non-government, and private sector actors each play important roles in the small-scale hydropower landscape. We are often inspired by the tenacity of locally-rooted, private entrepreneurs who are unperturbed by the challenges that come with establishing and running a financially viable business that also serves rural communities. In this guest blog post, we hear from Mr. Komarudin, an entrepreneur who wears many hats as a manufacturer, developer, technical consultant, and micro hydro champion in Bandung, Indonesia. He introduces us to his business, Protel Multi Energy (PME), which has been supporting rural energy access for over a decade.
Protel Multi Energy focuses on the manufacturing of affordable Digital Electronic Load Controllers (ELCs), as well as micro hydro and pico hydro turbines (crossflow and Pelton) for rural electrification all over the world. Besides product manufacturing we also assist villagers and project owners in planning and designing micro hydro schemes. Sometimes we offer technical supervision on construction and installation. We are also able to do turnkey projects under certain circumstances.
Our ELCs are being used in more than 900 micro hydro sites in 5 continents and more than 30 countries worldwide, with a projected total installed capacity of about 10MW by the end of 2021. Our projects are mostly financed by donors, government agencies or the private sector, as off-grid renewable energy projects for rural development.
Nowadays, especially in Indonesia, we are developing many micro hydro projects through Dana Desa (village funds). We often provide support for each stage, starting from site survey, to planning and design, project supervision, supply of equipment and post-installation management. Due to their lack of knowledge and experience, we assist villagers to develop their project as their own responsibility, under our supervision to make sure it runs well with a sustainable approach and reliable equipment.
To learn more about PME and access many useful tutorial videos, visit our YouTube channel!
We are delighted to present the fourth edition of our video podcast series, StreamSide Chats! The podcast features deep-dive conversations with grassroots innovators and international experts of small-scale hydropower, offering insights from the ground, framed within multi-thematic analysis.
In this edition, we take a closer look at social and environmental aspects of community hydro, discussing small-scale hydropower from the perspective of Indigenous communities. Through the case of a cluster of 12 micro hydro projects in Kalinga Province, Philippines, we explore important connections between community-scale hydro, Indigenous rights and livelihoods, and environmental stewardship.
aWe had the privilege to speak with Ms. Jade Angngalao, Coordinator of the Renewable Energy Program at SIBAT. Jade has worked with micro hydro communities for eleven years, focusing on various technical, social, and environmental aspects. We learn from Jade how micro hydro is supporting socio-environmental resilience in Kalinga, bolstered by long-standing, robust self-governance structures and traditional ecological knowledge. Don’t miss this chat, featuring a “streamside” tour of the Balbalasang micro hydro system and community!
In Part A, Jade reflects on her experience growing up with micro hydro and shares about the ways in which her social and cultural context influenced her view of ‘development’. We learn how projects are developed and managed by Indigenous communities in Kalinga province, and discuss how local governance structures and traditional environmental protocols support sustainable energy access, climate resilience, and community development. Jade shares about key challenges and future priorities, highlighting the opportunity for various stakeholders to support and uplift Indigenous-led, nature-based solutions like the community hydro initiatives in Kalinga.
03:44 - Cultural and environmental values
05:41 - Natural resource management
08:48 - First exposure to community hydro
12:04 - A rewarding role
13:40 - Productive end use
15:48 - Rights and self-governance through community hydro
17:33 - 'Lapat' environmental protocols
21:00 - Governance structure
21:45 - Climate change and watershed restoration
26:00 - Challenges
28:50 - Load management
34:20 - From villages to towns
35:38 - Micro hydro versus the grid
38:05 - Need for government support
40:00 - Nature-based solutions and climate finance
In Part B, join us for a tour with Ms. Jade Angngalo, Coordinator of the Renewable Energy Program at SIBAT, Eng. Ver Ian Victorio, Head of Micro Hydro Power Turbine Testing Center, Univ. of Rizwal System, and Eng. Roy Andrada, the Project Manager of the URS-MHP Program. First, Jade shares an overview of the Balbalasang micro hydro project, including its technical components, evolution, and local impacts. Next, the team shows us around the project, chatting with key community members along the way. From a computer lab at the local high school, to hostels and a carpentry workshop, the tour offers a glimpse into the various community assets enabled by the micro hydro system.
02:11 - Project location and governing body
02:53 - Technical layout, components, and evolution
04:30 - Project funding
05:03 - Community contribution of labor and land
05:21 - Productive end use and impact on local economy
06:43 - Social services end uses
07:58 - Household end uses
08:23 - Load Management
09:15 - Opportunity to upgrade the system
10:15 - Community-initiated fund for upgrade
11:09 - System running for two decades
11:46 - "StreamSide" tour of the project!
In case you missed it
Check out earlier editions of StreamSide Chats on our YouTube channel.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay updated on future releases!
Our Hidden No More interview series spotlights women small-scale hydro practitioners who have transformed gender barriers to generate energy access for marginalized communities.
In this edition, we feature Victoria (Vicky) Lopez, former Executive Director of SIBAT (Sibol Ng Agham At Teknolohiya) and founder of RESILIENCE, in the Philippines. Vicky has been a micro hydro practitioner and advocate for 27 years, and community mobilizer for even longer. Reflecting on her journey, Vicky shares important insights on the power of community-led change-making, the role of women in micro hydro planning and implementation, the importance of climate resilience, and more.
To start, can you share a bit more about yourself, Ms. Vicky?
I've been a development worker for most of my life, for about 27 years to be exact. Before that I was a faculty member at the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines. I joined SIBAT in 1991 as its Executive Director. SIBAT is built as a network of many local NGOs doing appropriate technology for communities. Development work meant being directly involved in developing appropriate technology innovations on the ground with communities. There were two areas that I worked in: sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. I led in developing these programs at SIBAT. I took the lead in developing innovations in establishing and expanding sustainable agriculture in many rural parts of the country among farming communities and then we started focusing on energy in the year 2000. We decided to focus on micro hydro because, at the time, solar was quite an expensive technology and not very appropriate for the needs of farmers; conversely micro hydro could really provide not just home lighting for the community, but also support livelihood needs.
You’ve worked in a diverse context over your 27 years in the rural development sector. For example you were a professor and also a community mobilizer. How were you able to bridge the different worlds?
I got my Master's in Physics and went on directly to teach Physics at the university. Before that I was in engineering, which focuses mostly on applications, but I loved basic theory. With physics you can really delve into scientific concepts and theories. Most importantly, it helped me to understand the theory of change, which has an implication or impact, not only in technology, but in society as a whole.
When I was at the university, it was a time of social upheaval in my country. I took part in the youth movement and activist movements – the university took part in that. So, that was my baptism into the world of change. Through school I learned that change is constant, and in society everything changes, and we were taught that we should participate in change-making. That was the most important lesson: that you should be confident in your ability to contribute to change for the better. The importance of people in this change process also became very strong in my understanding of things. So I got involved in community organizing and that helped me appreciate even more their role in change-making.
Was there a particular person or situation that inspired you to focus on renewable energy and community hydro?
I became part of a movement, doing advocacy work in objection to big dams. The World Bank was funding huge dams in the Northern part of the Philippines. Well, the objection was led by communities. They fought over several years and the people won, and the World Bank withdrew from the area. It wasn’t only the dams, but issues related to logging as well. When Ferdinand Marcos was president, under martial law, he allowed his cronies to exploit the resources up in the mountains, the watersheds. And again, the Indigenous people in that area resisted and they won – the big corporation withdrew from the area. So, I witnessed this and that, of course, was immense and very important to me. I realized that only the people can make change. Actually, it was a tribal community (the Butbut tribe) who articulated and requested that a small-scale hydro be built in their community, as the alternative to the big dam. They realized the importance of hydropower, but at a scale that would not hurt them, that would not displace communities. So they provided us the insight on what to do and that was the birth of the community-based micro hydro. Reflecting now, I think that was, in fact, a key element of our framework for renewable energy development.
So, basically, it was in that region where the micro hydro work started. We provided the technical support and the community contributed as well, and that became our framework going forward. And we leveraged this to reach out to funding agencies such as the UN Development Programme Small Grants Program and the Department of Energy, who then supported a number of our projects. Then that experience in that area inspired other tribal, Indigenous communities in the North to build similar systems, which in turn set an example for other Indigenous provinces to do the same.
I built a team of effective people. Not all were engineers; we especially paid attention to involving people from the ground. In time they all learned the theories behind the civil works. And, most importantly, we built all of the micro hydro components locally. We were in collaboration with a university in the North, who had good people who understood community-based work. There was one very good engineer, who has since passed away, who really provided strong, technological knowledge to our team, who we are very thankful for.
That was a period in the Philippines when policies were being drawn up to embark on renewable energy. We advocated for a community-based approach, but the government was influenced by the big energy companies coming in. So we continued our work even without policy to support us and, in the Cordillera Region, we built 27 micro hydro systems in collaboration with the communities and with local government units who recognized the role of the communities. The people, women, men and even children, came to do the physical construction work. The micro hydro organizations were built coming from the collective work in construction, and each organization formulated and enforced the policies to maintain and sustain the plant over these many years. The community organization provided the guidance to manage and sustain the micro hydro. Certainly, women have important roles to play in managing the micro hydro organizations, such as enforcing policies, and collectively sustaining the waterways and hillsides along these.
Following a period of rehabilitation after some 10 years or more, all the projects there are further improved and made to function up to the present, delivering the required energy per household and per community, providing 24-hour lighting, use of household appliances and powering livelihoods.
“With that understanding of the need to protect the water source…the communities have been able to sustain their systems for about 20 years now.”
So we started with resisting the big dam and won. And then the anti-logging struggle also played an important role in making the people understand the importance of defending their forests. In that province, where most of the micro hydro projects were implemented, the communities experienced a learning process around watershed protection. This strengthened the lappat system, the traditional system of forest protection in the indigenous communities. With that understanding of the need to protect the water source to enable electricity generation, the communities have been able to sustain their systems for more than 20 years now.
What kind of changes have you seen in the sector since you started out?
There are more and more people in the science and technology sector, including students and professionals, who are interested to volunteer and come with us to the field and take part.
In addition, the government’s energy programs are very strong and they look down at what we’re doing; but in recent years we’ve been able to show the economic impact of our approach. In 2018, we convened a conference addressing the impact of about 20 years of work. Looking back, earlier on a number of us were working on advocacy in our organization but not very systematically. Of course, we wrote papers and convened big, national conferences, especially at the start when we were trying to promote our work nationally; but now there is evidence we can leverage, standing side by side, something we can show the big systems of the government.
A few years back you established a new organization called RESILIENCE. Can you tell us about RESILIENCE and what led you to initiate it?
So, this was after my work in SIBAT. I thought of broadening the focus to embrace climate change because that is a very big threat to societies and it will have a very adverse impact on resources, and even on the micro hydro systems that we were advocating for. SIBAT already focused on sustainable agriculture, so we had that framework for addressing how different issues are connected, but climate is something that had to be addressed. So I organized RESILIENCE with a few people, but it will take us some more years to develop. With the pandemic it really had slowed down due to movement restrictions; but once the situation improves we will get back to it. And it will involve connecting with organizations that focus on climate change and us contributing our strength in sustainable agriculture, in watershed management, as well as renewable energy. It has yet to take off strongly, but the concept is there.
Why is climate resilience important in micro hydro communities?
Well, it's for the protection of the systems themselves against landslides, the lowering of the water level – all those aspects that affect the resources in the communities. Now communities are seeing an increase in specific impacts of climate change, such as typhoons and landslides. When these things happen we have to rehabilitate the systems, strengthen the civil works, and strengthen the role of the communities in conserving the forests and maintaining the water channels. In micro hydro communities, climate resilience encompasses a lot – the lives of the people and the protection of their innovations, successes and achievements.
We’ve heard from other colleagues in the Philippines how Indigenous communities have long traditions of environmental stewardship. How does that come into play?
We have seen many communities that lead in this – they have formulated community policies that govern watershed management, including the cutting of trees and protection of resources in the watershed area. But there are communities that still have to formulate theirs. So the traditional system that’s at the forefront of sustainable watershed protection is called lapat, which is a very important policy that people hold sacred and that they abide by. That is a great tradition being sustained up until now, but not all communities have done that. And only Indigenous communities have that; others should learn from them.
What challenges have you faced as a woman practitioner? How did you overcome these obstacles?
Of course, men dominate this field, but I am intrinsically strong and I have to keep showing that strength in order for other women to be strong. So, I have built small women’s groups in the city and while in the rural areas. And I have tried to show by example that you can speak, that you can act, that you can contribute to the discussion and take the lead where you are needed to take lead. I think mobilizing women is my strength. When I go to a rural community, the first people I engage are the older women.
“Of course, men dominate this field, but I am intrinsically strong and I have to keep showing that strength in order for other women to be strong.”
You have to keep yourself strong and not be intimidated, by organizing more women to add to their number in the field. And I've seen my former students really take strides in leadership in community work. So reflecting back, I think it’s about leading by example. I am also a member of the national women's organization here; I was part of building it during my younger days. So the importance of the role of women is very strong in me.
What do women leaders have to offer in energy access efforts?
Access to energy has an impact within households on women and children. Women are really impacted by everything that energy is used for inside the home, because of the care work that they do. So, I have seen rural women speaking very strongly for the sustaining of the micro hydro, and even taking a strong role in the physical maintenance of the hillsides, keeping the water channels clean. They're quite strong in that because it has an impact on their life. Electricity reduces their work in the household, it allows the children to study longer hours, and they can go to the fields with less risk because there is light outside the homes.
Traditionally, women are often not present at community meetings and instead stay home to care for the kinds. But when it comes to rural electrification, we’ve seen that women are quite strong in community meetings. The mothers come even together with the children and that provides insight into the importance of energy access to women, and the important role of women within these innovations.
What solutions could we employ to address gender challenges in the sector?
Well, the livelihood opportunities that energy access enables should be more accessible to women. And during my time in SIBAT we worked on innovating on some machines so that women can handle them easier, with less physical strength required. And when it comes to maintenance of the powerhouse, women can do that. So first help develop a fair opportunity for them to be part of what is supposedly a men’s domain, especially in livelihood matters. You can develop a specific approach to address that; maybe a women’s committee can be formed among other committees in the community, in order to address women’s particular needs. It’s important to look at technical matters, as well as the broader impacts. Always consider how women are affected and strengthen these aspects.
Within SIBAT, I have advocated for technical training for women and, although we have more men, we do have women engineers. But renewable energy development is not just technology and from the start of designing a program you have to look at the projected impact. So, you should not leave out the participation of women, especially in designing their livelihood paths. For example, sugar cane pressing, which is traditional in the mountain areas – with electricity they can develop the sugar industry, beyond just pressing.
Food is important to rural women, it is important to households. So agriculture can also be strengthened by micro hydro, for instance by enabling electric machines and equipment. Such activities have always concerned women in particular because of their role in sustaining the household.
What brings you hope for the future?
Again, that there will always be change. And I know if people can really work together then they can encourage the authorities to involve them. Right now during the pandemic, when the roles of local people are being addressed, there should be room made for community-based initiatives to build the change. I know that in my more than 30 years in this, when I began as a student activist in a small corridor of the university doing science, there had been great changes already. But not very structurally. But you could see the people’s minds do change.
And our efforts in micro hydropower development should – at least up to the municipality level – make them realize that community-based efforts should be a big, big part of the Philippines national program for development. In the mountains of Abra in Kalinga, there are 30 micro hydropower systems, not resulting from the initiative of the government, but from the initiative of the people. And there are those coming to a realization that this is something that they should study and perhaps multiply. My hopes for that are high.
Is there anything we have missed about your journey that you would like to share with our readers?
I look forward to seeing what big collective efforts will come about through the work of RESILIENCE, looking at all aspects, from water, to energy, economics, agriculture. That’s something that I hope to be a part of.
Earlier this quarter, we learned of the successful testing and commissioning of the 200kW Bom Kohla Mini Hydropower project in Lukla, Nepal, made possible by Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), ADB and the Lukla community. We offer our congratulations to HPNET members at AEPC who contributed to this project, enabling reliable, affordable, clean energy.
For a glimpse of the project – situated in the foothills of Mount Everest – and the team that brought it to fruition, check out this post from HPNET Member, Jiwan Kumar Mallik. Jiwan currently holds the position of Solar Power Expert under the AEPC’s Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihood (RERL) program.
Stay tuned for further updates on the implementation of the Bom Khola Mini Hydro project, coming soon!
Electronic load controllers (ELCs) are a critical component of micro hydropower systems, which keep turbines, generators, and the energy they produce within safe operating ranges, as loads are switched on and off. ELCs can prevent damage to appliances and micro hydro components and even mitigate fire and electrical hazards. Despite their important role, ELCs are generally the least understood component of micro hydro systems. Equipment selection can be particularly challenging if practitioners are unfamiliar with the different types of ELCs and their relative merits.
To help demystify ELCs and ease the equipment selection process, our Controllers and Load Management Work Stream has developed an easy-to-follow factsheet. This “Basics of Electronic Load Controllers (ELCs)" tool provides a useful background on electronic, automatic and manual flow control, with pointers on their relative cost and suitability in different contexts. Specific types of ELC designs are further illuminated, as well as ballast/dump load types and control methods, commissioning checks, and useful questions to ask of suppliers.
Check out the “Basics of Electronic Load Controllers (ELCs)" at this link.
We extend our thanks to Work Stream contributors Ajith Kumara, Bob Matthews, Dan Frydman, Jiwan Kumar Mallik and Rams Vaidhyanathan.
For more useful tools, check out our Micro Hydro Toolkit for Practitioners, which includes a DIY ELC Simulation Tool designed to help train local operators!
We’re excited to present the latest edition of StreamSide Chats -- our video podcast series featuring conversations with grassroots innovators and international experts of small-scale hydropower. The podcast facilitates deep-dive conversations with practitioners, bringing to light firsthand insights from the field, framed within multi-thematic analysis.
In Edition 3, we focus on Pakistan’s unique small-scale hydro sector, which has been scaled up over several decades. To date, over a thousand systems have been developed in Pakistan by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) and its regional partners, in partnership with rural communities.
We had the privilege to speak with Sherzad Ali Khan, the Coordinator of the Aga Khan Development Network (or AKDN) for the mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral in northern Pakistan. Prior to his current role, Sherzad worked for AKRSP, at which time he further innovated the community ownership models for micro and mini hydro. AKRSP’s Community Utility Company model continues to generate positive outcomes, and serves as a model for women-centric approaches to governance and productive end use.
Referencing insightful and inspiring examples, Sherzad provides insight into AKRSP’s Community-Utility Company model and how it facilitates inclusive, sustainable energy access and community development. We discuss gender-aware planning, productive end use, successful management practices, grid interconnection, climate finance and more.
In case you missed it
Check out earlier editions of StreamSide Chats on our YouTube channel.
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to stay updated on future releases!